Gala occasion marks 150th anniversary
The Kestrel Trophy, Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae (left), Jason Haggitt, Owen Rodger, Steve Hunt, Steven Douglas.
Government House in Wellington was the appropriate venue on 1 April for over 100 members and partners of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Aeronautical Society to mark two RAeS anniversaries—the 150th anniversary of the formation of the RAeS itself and the 70th anniversary of the NZ Division.
The dinner was hosted by His Excellency Lt Gen the Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Mateparae, with special guest Air Chf Mshl Sir Stephen Dalton, president elect of the UK RAeS. Other senior guests included Air NZ CEO Christopher Luxon, CAA Director Graeme Harris and Acting Chief of Air Force, Air Cdre Darren Webb.
The dinner was introduced with speeches by the Governor-General and NZ Division president Frank Sharp. Both paid tribute to the pioneering efforts of New Zealanders in the founding days of manned flight, citing the endeavours of Pearse, Pither, the Walsh brothers and others in the pre-WWI era, then the contribution of Kiwi airmen in WWI such as Rhodes-Moorhouse, the first Maori to win a VC in the air, Caldwell, Bannerman and Park.
They also covered the between-wars efforts of Batten and others who pioneered long-range flights, and followed by recalling many great actions of the thousands of Kiwi airmen in WWII.
Bringing the country’s aeronautical pursuits up to the current day, mention was made of airline, military, commercial and general aviation highlights in New Zealand and overseas. The range of aeronautical interests covered engineering, support services and now drones and rocketry.
The annual RAeS (NZ Division) awards were presented by the Governor-General. The recipients this year were:
• The RNZAF Kestrel Award went to the Seasprite Transition Unit at RNZAF Base Whenuapai. Accepting the award were Cdrs Jason Haggitt and Owen Rodger, Sqn Ldr Steve Hunt and W/O Steven Douglas.
• The Kestrel Trophy for Air New Zealand was presented to the CEO, Christopher Luxon.
• The Rhodium Medal for exceptional services to aviation went to AVM Peter Adamson (RNZAF Rtd). This was a new award, higher than the traditional RAeS Gold Medal, acknowledging Peter Adamson’s outstanding work in a range of aviation community groups since his retirement from the RNZAF.
• The two RAeS Fellowship Awards were presented by Sir Stephen Dalton to Christopher Luxon and Des Ashton.
Sir Stephen then addressed the diners and spoke of how the RAeS must remain relevant in a time when most of the membership was of a “mature” calibre. He emphasised how New Zealand’s contribution over the years was well noted, pointing out that no finer example could be found than in London where there is a statute to Sir Keith Park, the man whose leadership was key to saving Britain from the Luftwaffe in 1940.
He then concentrated on what he called the new fields of endeavour with the exploration of space. The reality that aeronautics could embrace this new medium for commercial travel and scientific programmes was not lost on a number of entrepreneurs such as Sir Richard Branson, and he noted that even in New Zealand there was a small company which had already launched a rocket into inner space.
On the question of whether in the foreseeable future commercial airliners could be flown without a human in the front cockpit, he said it was technically feasible but the acceptance of not having a human interface in the controlling of a flight would take the travelling public a lot of convincing.
However, he did note that for the last 27 years many commercial airliners had, in severe weather conditions, landed using autoland systems without the intervention of the pilots up front.
Sir Stephen finished his address by stating that in order to remain a viable voice on matters aeronautical, the Society must look forward for at least five years and be a body of authoritative knowledge to those interested in this fascinating human pursuit.
- Report and photography by Paul Harrison.
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